The Southeastern Conference is accepting bids for its league baseball tournament, and Louisiana is jumping in.
The Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation is submitting a bid to host the event, while the Louisiana Legislature quickly advances a bill that leaders hope will help lure the tournament to town.
Senate Bill 1 has been passed by the Senate and House Appropriations Committee. It heads to the House for final approval, likely later this week.
Sen. Danny Martiny, a Metairie Republican who is sponsoring the legislation, said the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation is in the process of bidding for the baseball championship event. Representatives from the foundation were not available for comment. SEC officials declined comment.
The SEC is accepting bids by the close of business on Wednesday, two sources with knowledge of the situation told The Advocate. New Orleans is one of an unknown number of cities bidding to host the tournament, which has been held in Hoover, Alabama, for the last 18 consecutive years.
The conference is in the final year of a five-year contract to have the tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, a 10,500-seat stadium in the Birmingham suburb. Hoover is still in play to keep the tournament, a source confirmed.
The SEC sent bidding information to about a dozen southern cities over the past several weeks, but it’s unclear how many of them will enter a bid. The bidding process is the first in a lengthy ordeal, a source said. The process includes site visits and evaluations and reviews with SEC presidents and athletic directors.
The SEC is likely to award a bid just before or just after this year’s tournament, set for May 24-29, two sources said.
Nashville, Orlando and Memphis are other cities expected to bid on the 12-team event held in late May, one source said. If New Orleans was to win the bid, the tournament would be held in Metairie at Zephyr Field, a 20-year-old, 11,000-seat stadium hosting the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins.
The Louisiana Legislature created the Major Events Incentive Program last year to help recruit high-profile events like national championship games, the Super Bowl, Olympic trials, political conventions and others, but it wouldn’t cover the baseball conference tournament.
Several states have established incentive programs like Louisiana’s.
The Louisiana law establishes a special fund that draws in a portion of excise and sales taxes generated by qualifying events that is then paid back as an incentive for holding the event in Louisiana.
“It’s not going to cost the state anything right now,” said Martiny.
This isn’t the first time that Hoover will have to fight to keep the tournament. In 2011, the SEC took bids but kept the event in Hoover. Memphis and Jacksonville were considered the most competitive challengers then. Bids also came from New Orleans, Montgomery and Duluth, Ga., that year.
Hoover agreed on several upgrades to the park in 2011. A new sound system was installed and repairs to the dugouts and restrooms were made.
LSU baseball fans are known to flock to Hoover for the conference tournament. The Tigers have won five of the last eight SEC tournaments, dominating the event under coach Paul Mainieri.
Last year’s tournament drew the second most number of fans ever, with an attendance of 132,178 people. The record was set in 2013, when 134,496 fans showed up for the six-day tournament at the Hoover Met that ended with the Tigers’ 5-4, 11-inning win over then-No. 1 Vanderbilt.
“If they are going to look at other options, I’d love to see it in New Orleans more so than any other city,” Mainieri said. “I’m sure we’d pack that stiadum. Not just for LSU games but for all of the games.”
The league polled coaches the last time the tournament accepted bids in 2011, Mainieri said.
“A few people mentioned Memphis and Nashaville,” the coach said. “I threw out New Orleans. I don’t think anybody was all that excited to pull out of Hoover at that point. They made some facility upgrades. It seems to have more traction this time.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @RossDellenger.